In 1989, my brother forged an autograph on a 1988 Topps Andre Dawson, and we sold it for $20 to the red-headed jerk down the street. That same year, my Billy “Fuck Face” Ripken Fleer went for $25 to another kid in class. Oh the profiteering of baseball cards, the true meaning of America’s pastime to a Jewish adolescent tucked away in a sleepy north Texas suburb: Too young to sling shoes, too small to sell weed, but a real hankering to put his mercantile heritage to some good use.
It’s that enterprising spirit that might fill me with envy toward one unnamed lucky duck, who recently ran across a 1865 baseball card of the Brooklyn Atlantics at a yard sale in Maine. S/he swiped it for ostensibly peanuts, and, on Wednesday night, it auctioned at an opening bid of $10,000 and ended with a whopping $92,000. No forged autographs required. The buyer also remains anonymous.
Only two copies of the 1865 photo are currently in existence, one being a version of the above (mounted on a card, which was the style at the time) and the other in the Library of Congress. The card’s rarity is what drove the price up so high. Also, derp, it’s really old. “There are very few artifacts around from the 1860s,” said Tom Bartsch, editor of Sports Collectors Digest. “Baseball was near its infancy in that time.”
I’d also speculate that the high-priced bid might be in reaction to the buzz around Brooklyn’s contrived retro culture. You know, mixologists in waxed mustaches riding unicycles to work and a line around the corner at Video Free for a VHS copy of “Ghostbusters 2″. Well, hell. Whatever sparks enough interest to get top dollar for the thing, am I right? Please tweet me if you want a 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson rookie card, mint condition (autograph optional).